NAPD's 2015 Annual Report, “All Day, Every Day, Public Defense,” features the day-in, day-out advocacy that public defenders provide in jails, courts and communities across the country. NAPD’s exclusive focus on public defense does not mean the fight is restricted to courtroom struggles. This report chronicles the scope of services that public defenders provide and the incredible impact that the public defense function has on individual lives and the community at large. Public defenders are at the very center of America’s increasingly public confrontation with racial prejudice, poverty, and the deeply dehumanizing experience of mass-incarceration.
Throughout 2015, public defenders articulated the dramatic differences – time and time again - between prosecutors in grand jury proceedings against poor people (disproportionately people of color) and those against police officers accused of killing poor people (almost always people of color). Public defenders led the movement to end the imposition of fines, fees, unconstitutional bail and debtor’s prisons. When Baltimore rioted and hundreds of people were denied both lawyers and bail, public defenders were there. When the media so aggressively vilified James Holmes to threaten his right to a fair trial, public defenders were there. They were at the South Carolina statehouse when the Confederate flag was removed after 9 black people were killed in a Charleston church. Public defenders are fighting to end the solitary confinement practice that led to the death of Kalief Browder, who killed himself after spending 2 years in isolation in pre-trial detention on Riker’s Island before his case was dismissed, and to raise the age so that no child is subjected to prison’s harshest environments. Without public defenders in Orange County, the District Attorney’s and sheriff’s wide-ranging ethical breaches would have continued to deny justice to thousands of poor people just as they had for the last 30 years.
In most jurisdictions, between 85-90% of all criminal defendants are represented by a public defender. In this relationship so many of America’s socio-economic ills are exposed.The public defense professionals who daily deliver the right to counsel in the courts, jails and their client’s communities are criminal justice experts, and the most committed and qualified entity to lead the movement to bring justice to a broken system.
In 2013, contemplating the state of public defense five decades after the Gideon ruling, NAPD formed in order to involve all public defense professionals in a campaign devoted exclusively to public defense. Beginning with 30 members at a meeting in Dayton, OH, the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) recruited nearly 10,000 lawyers, investigators, IT staff, social workers, paralegals, administrators, and advocates in its first year of operations, tackling the most urgent public defense issues affecting defenders, advocates and clients today.
Below is NAPD's 2014 Annual Report, which details a summary of the experiences and accomplishments of its first year, largely told through the voices of the membership. NAPD's inclusive, sharing, practitioner-led organizational model is a unique approach to overcome the challenges that public defenders and their clients face in their quest for justice. Stronger together, NAPD is overcoming the historical isolation of public defense programs and building a unified, informed community that leverages the intellectual capital of its thousands of members into tools for public defenders to lead the movement for justice reform.
Download the NAPD 2014 Annual Report: Stronger Together